“One half from the East” Nadia Hashimi

onehalffromtheeastRated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 6, 2016. Harper Collins. 256 p. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)

In Afghanistan, there exists a tradition called bacha posh.” If a family doesn’t have a son, and are down on their luck, they are encouraged to change a daughter into a bacha posh, which brings good luck. The daughter must be young enough to not have reached puberty because she is expected to look and act like a boy. Gone are long skirts, headscarves, and all dainty girl behaviors. As a bacha posh, she is free to run, get dirty, and do things girls would never be allowed to do in Afghani society.

Ten-year-old Obayda becomes her family’s bacha posh after her father loses his leg in a car bombing and is unable to work. With only four daughters, the family desperately needs the luck a bacha posh can bring them. At first Obayda is terrified of her new role, not sure how to be a boy. However, with the help of Rahima, a thirteen-year-old bacha posh, Obayda soon comes to love the freedom of being a boy. Unfortunately they can’t remain a bacha posh forever. Soon they must change back into a girl and forget they were ever boys, but how does one go from freedom to shackles?

The world of gender inequality is explored in “One half from the East,” while readers are also introduced to the culture of Afghan people. It is sure to be a conversation starter, and offers great lessons on gender roles and expectations.

Recommended for ages 9-14.

“My Totally Awkward Supernatural Crush” Laura Toffler-Corrie

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published August 20, 2013. Roaring Book Press. 342 pp.

MyTotallyAwkwardSupernaturalCrushFourteen-year-old Jenna is the world’s most awkward middle schooler and babysitter. She spends half the book bemoaning the ugly clothes her “communist” mother buys in bulk, while stumbling and mumbling her way awkwardly through every situation (including babysitting) in the other half.

No one is more surprised than she when Luke, the hottest guy she’s ever seen, seems to like her. Turns out Luke was killed during the Revolutionary War and is now an angel posing as a teen boy sent to protect her from Adam, also killed during said War, posing as another teen but really a bad demon. Adam wants Jenna’s pendant, an ugly necklace that can keep Adam here in the modern world wrecking havoc forever. Jenna is supposed to protect the necklace from him, by always keeping it around her neck. Luke is supposed to protect Jenna but is too worried about getting in trouble with his boss to do much protecting. Meanwhile, Jenna is clueless about any of this, and only has eyes for Luke. Got it so far?

The plot of bad boy demon and good boy angel have been done before by many, many authors, but their story lines were so much better. A line like “I’ll get you and your little pendant too!” had me rolling my eyes in disbelief. Michael Jackson songs always played whenever Adam and Luke were together, in between scenes from “Fiddler on the Roof,” while Jenna continually bumbled her way through everything. It was confusion and total unbelievability on a massive scale.

I wanted to toss the book, and my cookies, but kept reading so I could review it for your sake. I don’t recommend reading it, but will leave it up to you to decide if you should read it or not.

“Imperfect Spiral” Debbie Levy

ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). Published July 16, 2013. Walker Books (Bloomsbury). 339 pp. (Includes A Note from the Author).

ImperfectSpiralDanielle was supposed to be a camp counselor that summer, but something happened during her Bat Mitzvah – she froze during her special reading. Now terrified of being around large groups of people, she becomes a babysitter for 5 year old Humphrey, a very lovable child prodigy. Humphrey has an interesting way of looking at the world, and Danielle soon falls in love with him and his eagerness to learn how to throw a perfect spiral with her football. They spend hours together as she teaches him how to play football as they learn about looking at life in different ways from each other.

Alternating past memories of her time with Humphrey and the present, Danielle recounts the events that led up to Humphrey being killed in a car accident. Unable to face what happened that day, Danielle withdraws into herself even more until she meets Justin. She seems to feel Humphrey’s presence whenever she’s around Justin, which helps to calm her.

However, with the entire town shocked over Humphrey’s death, it doesn’t take long for their furor to fall upon the heads of the illegal immigrants who drove the car that hit Humphrey. The demand to drive all immigrants out of their county seems to resound extra loudly with Justin and, without meaning to, Danielle is soon caught up in the ensuing chaos. She wants to stay in her shell, but has to do what Humphrey would have wanted her to do.

“Imperfect Spiral” is touchingly written, and its emotional storyline will resound with readers aged 12-16. The battle over immigration is an important part of our society these days, and Levy does a good job of bring this heated issue to light.